TRI-CITY AREA — The wait is almost over with, the start of another high school football season is just a day away.

Here is a look at our Tri-City squads, who they lost to graduation, their top returnees and their outlook entering Thursday’s season-opening matchups, all of which list 7 p.m. starting times.

In Almont, James Leusby begins his seventh year as the Raiders’ head coach.

His team is coming off a 3-3 overall campaign. That included a 2-2 showing pitted against BWAC teams, good good for fourth place.

Almont’s Landon Kruse looks to tackle Imlay City’s Cristian Rojas during a Blue Water Area Conference battle last season.

Almont would halve their two-game stint in the Division 5 state playoffs.

Their postseason path began with a convincing 28-0 win against Ovid-Elsie at home.

They then bowed out with a 28-0 road setback to Frankenmuth.

All-State running back Michael Lulgjuraj, All-State outside linebacker Landon Kruse and All-State honorable mention defensive lineman Nolan Panduren were mentioned as Almont’s biggest losses to graduation.

Mason Smith (running back) and Brandon Hunsaker (guard/inside linebacker) are Almont’s top returnees.

Leusby listed Cros-Lex and North Branch as the BWAC title favorites.

“We hope to get enough wins to make the playoffs,” Almont Coach James Leusby said. “If we succeed, it will be our 12th straight season to accomplish that,” he noted

Almont kicks off their season this Thursday when they travel to Monroe St. Mary’s Catholic. The non-league encounter is scheduled for 7 p.m.

At Imlay City, Brian Tresnak is back for his fourth season as the Spartans’ head coach.

Last fall Imlay City wound up with a 4-3 overall mark. That included a 4-2 BWAC record, good for third place.

Imlay City competed in the Division 4 playoffs, bowing out with a 40-26 opening round loss to host Cros-Lex.

Andrew Aldren (offensive line/defensive line), Chris Cezik (tight end/defensive line), Ray Liu (cornerback), Wyatt Luther (linebacker), Anthony Milana (offensive line), Dakota Sandzik (halfback/cornerback), Isaac Schmitz (tight end), Bryce Stoutenberg (offensive line) and Jack Kaplan (quarterback) were Imlay City’s key losses due to graduation.

Lance Wolford (linebacker), Dillan Landerschier (defensive line), Cristian Rojas (defensive back/halfback), Julian Rojas (defensive back/halfback), Scott Shevnock (offensive line), Joey Alden (offensive line), Hunter Hill (offensive line), Anthony D’Ambrosio (defensive back), Latham Perry (offensive line/defensive line) and Brady Vanderploeg (linebacker) are Imlay City’s top returnees.

Tresnak pegged Cros-Lex and North Branch as the likely BWAC title contenders.

“We have had a solid offseason and expect to compete,” Tresnak said. “The BWAC is always such a tough competitive league,” he noted.

“We are going to lean on our veterans to help guide some new, younger faces. This team is built a little differently than the teams we have had in the past. We’re faster and have changed our schemes to reflect that. When it comes to wins, they don’t ask how, they ask how many.

Imlay City opens the 2021 campaign this Thursday when it hosts Durand. The non-league battle lists a 7 p.m. starting time.

In Capac, Rob Novy begins his third year as the Chiefs’ head coach.

Capac, which was predominately an underclassmen-filled squad in 2020, is coming off a highly successful campaign which saw them go 4-0 versus junior varsity foes and 1-1 against varsity opponents

Gabriel Garcia (offensive line/defensive end) and Ben Laskowski (placekicker) were Capac’s key losses due to graduation.

Jared Fahley (quarterback), Hunter Tyson (offensive line/linebacker), Jorge Navarro (defensive back), Carlos Uribe-Arce (defensive back), Zach Langmesser (wide receiver), Nathan Gaedcke (offensive line), Wyatt Hurley (tight end/defensive end), Myles Falzon (running back) and James Meadows (center) are Capac’s top returnees.

Novy lists Ubly, Sandusky and Harbor Beach as the teams who should be considered favored to win the Greater Thumb Conference East title.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs,” Novy said. “We will be playing in Division 8 this year,” he noted.

Capac starts their 2021 campaign this Thursday when it entertains non-conference adversary New Haven. That matchup is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Kevin Kissane

Kevin Kissane has been covering high school sports for the Tri-City Times since 1985. When not standing on a field or court with his camera and notepad, he enjoys golf, travel and family. Kevin is a 1980 graduate of Capac High School, and is also a grad of St. Clair Community College and earned a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.